Fortinet, Linksys joint venture aims to bring enterprise security to home offices

Linksys HomeWRK for Business will provide a new at-home networking package for both corporate and personal networks using enterprise-grade security.

Security software provider Fortinet and networking hardware maker Linksys have introduced a new joint security-connectivity package designed to give enterprises a smoother and more efficient way to enable work-from-home networks. The idea is to give remote workers the same level of enterprise-level security and connectivity as they would get from an office location.

The companies claim that Linksys HomeWRK for Business | Secured by Fortinet, announced Sept. 13 and planned for release in Q4, is the first enterprise solution to provide continuous secure network connectivity for remote corporate work in a router pre-optimized for business applications and collaboration tools, including Zoom and others. 

The single device enables the operation of two separate, secure networks within the home, for both business and personal uses, Fortinet and Linksys told ZDNet. 

Fortinet is a leading global enterprise security software provider; Linksys sells about 70 percent of its routers to consumers and is trying to increase its presence in the B2B market, CEO Harry Dewhirst told ZDNet.

"The two biggest issues in remote work are connectivity quality of service and security," Dewhirst said. "Most homes don't have high-quality networking (meaning seamless coverage, room-to-room roaming), and they may have VPNs and client software on their devices (for security), but they're meant for occasional use. They're not meant for days, weeks, months, years of use. 

"We see the collaboration between Linksys and Fortinet as something that brings together two best-of-breed solutions to solve the two issues that every company has experienced."

With the rapid increase in remote and hybrid work during the last 18 months, enterprise IT teams are reprovisioning their workforces to operate more effectively from outside the office while protecting their organizations from security threats that include ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks--many of which are introduced by home networks. 

A recent survey from Sungard Availability Services revealed that only about 20 percent of companies are fully confident their infrastructure security can support long-term remote work.

"Our goal was two-fold: First, make it very simple for anyone to set up a fast and reliable home Wi-Fi network. Second, we wanted to provide enterprise IT with the ability to secure and manage the business aspects of that work-from-home Wi-Fi network, just as they do with any other device attached to the network," John Maddison, EVP of products and CMO at Fortinet, said. 

"The Linksys and Fortinet joint venture is not just a simple OEM agreement of two distinct parties, it's the start of a completely new market."

Key features

The new offering, expected to become available later in 2021, will feature the following:

Secure Wi-Fi mesh connectivity: HomeWRK uses Wi-Fi 6 tri-band technology and Linksys' Velop Intelligent Mesh software in a single router. Enterprise IT teams can distribute the provision-free hardware to employees to replace their existing home router to establish both corporate and personal networks that cover the entire physical location.

Enterprise-grade security: Fortinet's software guards against cyber threats introduced by home networks and automatically blocks suspicious malware, prevents intrusions, and filters harmful content.

Zero-touch provisioning: Streamlines the employee onboarding experience with simple plug-and-connect devices that don't require physical assistance from corporate IT teams to install. The solution also includes a guided app for best placement of nodes at home. 

Simple remote management: Management console enables enterprise IT managers to monitor and diagnose the performance of all devices connected to the corporate network in real-time via a single portal. The solution is natively integrated with Fortinet management systems to further streamline management for existing Fortinet customers. Employees are also able to manage their personal network via a separate console with visibility and control of all personal devices.

Employee privacy protection: Remote employees' privacy is protected with support for multiple networks. While the corporate network is managed by the IT team, employees maintain complete ownership of the personal network and security settings, allowing all household members to benefit from a fast and secure connection for non-corporate devices, such as laptops and gaming consoles. Corporate and personal networks are separated with no visibility or access to personal information granted to corporate IT teams, Fortinet said.

Linksys-Fortinet HomeWRK will be available in the United States in Q4 2021 and globally beginning in Q1 2022 on hardware-as-a-service subscription plans that require no upfront investment for enterprise IT teams, the companies said. Two levels of service give enterprises flexibility in supporting their remote and hybrid workers: Standard includes two nodes with standard Fortinet security, and Advanced includes two nodes with advanced Fortinet security. Additional nodes to extend coverage will be available, the companies said.